Introductions between This Little Doggy and the Two Bigger Doggies is something I thought about at length. It was hard to be sure how they would react to a new member of the family. I thought I had a pretty good idea of how the two of them would be, but it was no more than a guess. I thought that Shadow would be hugely excited to have a new “toy” to play with, and that Willow would either be very standoffish and aloof, or would be tender and gentle with the new arrival.
Well. I thought I was prepared. I had a plan. Luna would spend a couple of days in her pen, with the Two Bigger Doggies getting used to her presence in the house like that. Then, we would do individual introductions in the garden, allowing the adults to take their time approaching. Once that was out of the way, and a week or so down the line, the pen would be mainly used for putting the puppy in when she became too boorish for the adults.
Hmm. The best laid plans…
Willow and Shadow were not happy about the new arrival. Shadow was jealous and on edge. Willow was grumpy. They could not be trusted with the puppy one little bit. Even in the garden, they both snarled and snapped at her on their first individual meetings, so poor Squidge would run away crying.
This was tough. The first instinct is to tell the adults off when they react inappropriately to a little puppy, but the problem with that is that it just exacerbates their negative feelings towards her. So, we started a programme of very slow, very careful introductions, micro managing every interaction along the way.
I even consulted a behaviourist, to see if there was anything extra I could do. She observed them and put my mind at rest that I was doing everything right and it would all be OK in time. She saw This Little Doggy’s brilliant body language, and glimmers of acceptance with both adult dogs. She also saw how anxious Shadow is generally, so recommended I try some Adaptil products, which I did. The Adaptil diffuser is plugged in 24/7 and emits soothing pheromones, and he has the Adaptil Express tablets every morning. Do they work? It’s hard to tell. Things have certainly improved since using them, but is that to do with the products, or just time and patience? I couldn’t tell you.
The dogs are always a lot more relaxed when out and about, so about every other day, I would get Luna out with one or the other adult dog for a few minutes at the end of their walks. Every neutral to good interaction between them improves their relationship, so it was a great opportunity to strengthen the positive associations. Alongside this, and only when the adult dogs were relaxed at home, I would have short sessions of fussing either Willow or Shadow, while Luna was either mooching or having tummy rubs on the other side of me.
So, that brings us to now. Two months later, and Luna is very rarely confined to her pen when I am home. All three dogs can rush to the door when J gets home from work, and there is no argy-bargy. Luna can arrive home from her walks and safely come through the front door, right into the bustle of adults, who have come to greet me. And we even get the occasional game of gentle bitey-face!
It’s been far harder work than I thought it would be, as much as I was always confident it would work out in time. But, we’re getting there, and it’s lovely to see the glimmers of the affection between them that I know will only strengthen over time.